Understand what is Circular Water Economy

In the 18th century, the French chemist Lavoisier coined the famous phrase “in nature nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything is transformed”. Almost three centuries later, the cycle of nature is the inspiration for the new study released by the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development (CEBDS), the Circular Water Economy Guide.

The publication aims to replicate, along with other companies, successful experiences in water management. In the Guide, the fight against waste guides business actions, which serve as a replicable model and impetus for new water sustainability initiatives.

How about getting to know a little more about the concepts and how to apply them in the day-to-day business? In this brief interview, the CEBDS technical advisor and coordinator of Water Thematic Chamber, André Ramalho, talks a little about the main concepts addressed in the publication.

André Ramalho is a technical advisor at CEBDS and coordinator of the Water Thematic Chamber (CTÁgua)

What is Circular Economy?

André Ramalho – The basic concept traditionally applied is that where we extract the input, make the product, use it and then discard it. In the circular economy, the aim is to break this sequence, developing and adapting products so that, instead of being discarded, they can be reused and reinserted into the system, eliminating or reducing the need to extract new inputs.

How does the circular economy concept apply to the water issue?

AIR – The logic applies when you, instead of disposing of water with conditions different from the original ones, as is the case with wastewater, sewage for example, you withdraw it and reinsert it into the system to reduce a new capture, it also involves looking for alternatives to use the water in closed circuits or being able to circulate in systems several times before being treated and discarded.

What is the importance of applying the circular economy of water?

AIR – The circular economy of water helps companies become more efficient, reducing water use, helping to maintain its availability and quality, reducing risks. Risks range from loss of productivity to use conflicts with society, for example. In addition, efficient use contributes to the image and accounts of companies.

What are the 5Rs and why are they important?

AIR – The 5Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Restore and Recover – for water, established by the International Water Agency (IWA), aim to consolidate forms of actions that will lead to the circular economy. They aim from stimulating management efficiency (Reduce and Reuse), to assisting in the restoration of ecosystems and recovery of water quality that serves both companies and society.

Check below the summary of three successful cases of companies associated with CEBDS:

Nestlé – Zero Water Factory

Due to the fact that the unit is located in a region of great water scarcity, in the São Francisco River Basin, Nestlé has implemented innovative initiatives at the NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® coffee capsules factory in Montes Claros to guarantee the neutral uptake of water resources, such as reusing water extracted from condensed milk manufactured at its neighboring facility. The Leite Moça® factory supplies 100% of the water used in the coffee capsules production process.

With the implementation of the milk water reuse project, Nestlé units in the region avoid capturing 68,000 m³ of water per year. The NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® factory alone prevented the capture of 12,489 m³ of water in 2017.

Coca-Cola and Agrosmart – Irrigation Optimization

The application of Digital Agriculture in Coca-Cola's fruit production chain contributes to the efficient use of water resources and climate resilience. The initiative is contributing to reducing supply chain climate risk and increasing farmer resilience.

In search of innovative solutions to help solve problems related to the water crisis, in 2016 the company launched Coca-Cola Open Up Water – an open innovation platform that launches challenges for the public to solve. This program created a partnership with Agrosmart, a digital agriculture platform that helps rural producers make better decisions in the field and be more resilient to climate change. The company generates recommendations by monitoring crops through sensors and satellite images, interpreting plant needs in real time and providing recommendations for irrigation and disease and pest control.

After the first year of the project, it was already possible to identify the potential for saving 30% of water used in irrigation and increasing productivity by 10%.

Braskem – Aquapolo Project

The Aquapolo Project is a partnership between SABESP and Odebrecht Ambiental (currently BRK Ambiental). It is the largest undertaking for the production of industrial reuse water in South America and the fifth largest on the planet. It is able to produce 1,000 liters/second of reused water. For every liter of water produced in its facilities, another liter of potable water is saved and made available for human consumption.

Braskem assumed that it would consume 65% of all the water produced at Aquapolo, ensuring that the project was maintained.

At first, the company was not clear that it was, in addition to a project to improve water efficiency, also a great project that would offer good quality water. To exemplify, a plant that used water in its cooling tower operated with the same water for 4 cycles. With the water coming from Aquapolo, it started to operate with 8 cycles. The quality of the water allowed more internal cycles to be carried out and thus improved efficiency within the plant itself. The use of reuse water from Aquapolo allowed the company, during the 2014 water crisis in the Southeast Region, to operate normally and even reach production records (from 2014 to 2015), while other companies operating in the same region had to reduce their operating load.


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